Egypt is playing a key role in Israel's efforts to contend with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Ynet Saturday.
“As of now, we see dialogue between Egypt and Hamas. As our strategic partners, the Egyptians play a key role in this issue,” said Vilnai to Ynet ahead of the arrival of Egypt’s Chief of Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, expected in Israel at the beginning of the week. Suleiman is expected to present Israel's political leadership with an outline for a ceasefire agreement in Gaza.
Vilnai added that “Hamas is our bitter enemy, we do not speak with them. They still believe that terrorism can cause us to surrender but they are unaware of how badly they are mistaken.”
When asked with whom Israel was closer to reaching a peace agreement, Vilnai said “it depends on all the players involved. We are not planning a war, I can promise that because I am on our side. Regarding the Syrians I am less confident even though I assume that they will not gain anything from such move. The only danger lying before us is a misunderstanding or a mishap that may develop into war, we must remember that Hizbullah is a key player in this arena.”
Regarding the Syrians, Vilnai insinuated that the bombing of the building suspected of being used as a nuclear plant in September 2007 deterred Damascus.
“The Syrians understand our capabilities. There is a huge gap between what is said in the media and what they feel and act according to,” he said.
Deputy Minister Vilnai did not directly discuss the issue of the Golan Heights as an issue in the negotiations with Syria but noted that Israel has a strategic interest in an agreement between Jerusalem and Damascus.
“Israel has a major strategic interest in breaking the axis of evil, which includes Syria, Iran and Hizbullah. We can reach this goal militarily, but we can also do so in other ways. I think that the appropriate way is reaching an agreement with the other side under which the rules are clear, namely that posing a threat to Israel is out of the question.”